What American workers can learn from Greek crisis

Observing the Greek crisis makes me thankful for the resistance President Obama has shown to the banker-driven austerity agenda of the Republicans. Many are disappointed that the resistance was not stronger, or at least more effective, in reducing unemployment. I sympathize with these voices. But imagine the situation in Greece: being trapped between choices of massive unemployment and enslavement to foreign bankers, and massive unemployment and no credit at all. Then imagine being governed by forces that welcome enslavement to bankers, like the current crop of Republican presidential candidates.

The situation in Greece is not unlike the dilemma facing workers in a multinational-owned factory that seems doomed to being moved overseas, but the company keeps holding you up for wage and benefit cuts to keep an ever dwindling fraction of the jobs. The workers don't have the power to stop the runaway. If they refuse to bend over and take the abuse, the company leaves town and blames the union. On the other hand, simple dignity argues against being forced to beg for crumbs. I recall one shop that took the desperate step of striking and trashing as many of the machines as possible on their way out. 

Greek workers do not have the power to overthrow the French and German banks, and their governments. Chances are very remote of reforming the European Union into a progressive fiscal governing body that forces banks to take the full haircut in losses they deserve and brings the necessary stimulus that Greek recovery demands - the alternative to austerity. The latest banker demands include new cuts in the minimum wage, pensions and tens of thousands of public jobs. This comes on top of three previous rounds of drastic cuts. If Greece chose to go it alone and leave the EU and the euro, the cuts would be no less, perhaps even more, devastating than submitting to austerity. Leaving the euro in favor of a domestic currency would result in a 50% or more devaluation, and all Greek debts would still have to be repaid in euros. The economic restructuring would be no less intense and fearful in a go-it-alone strategy, and the risks of a military takeover would be high given the level of chaos - in fact the danger of that is high anyway.

The U.S. has immense resources compared to Greece, including its own currency and the most powerful central bank in the world. Unlike Greece, the people of the United States have the power to roll back the prerogatives and privileges of the too-big-to-fail financial sector. They have the power to turn around from austerity. This is really what the 2012 election is all about. There is no defect in the Obama campaign which cannot be corrected with sufficient mobilization of working people and their natural allies in the democratic, peace, equality and justice movements. If we ALL become Greeks, and join their chorus of mass resistance to austerity, we can not only save ourselves, but, by our own example, help save the world from depression and its threats of war as well.

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  • 1. If the Greek working class and its organizations do not make a fight of this, the extreme right is waiting in the wings to pose as the saviors of the workers. The far right wing party, LAOS, quit Prime Minister Papademos' coalition right before the main vote on austerity, and now are positioning themselves to appear as the anti-austerity party in the coming April elections. So the workers and the left have to fight, dismal though the prospects may seem.
    2. International unity and solidarity is essential in these struggles. The social democratic governments in Europe were not able to form a united front to oppose the push for austerity for monopoly capital; in fact there are indications that they worked against each other.
    3. Mass mobilization and active struggle in each country, including ours, is key. Even many bourgeois economists admit that the austerity approach in Spain, Portugal and Greece is likely to make the situation worse instead of better (because it will shrink the economy), but the major political parties signed onto it anyway. in our own country, the Democrats, though they have never claimed to be socialists, have not been as ready to knuckle under to the demands of capital as have been the Socialist Party in Portugal, the Socialist Workers' Party in Spain and PASOK in Greece. We have seen some signs of fight among at least some of the Democrats, e.g. the ones in the Wisconsin State Legislature. But nothing is accomplished without united masses in motion, sendng the message that if a solution is not found which does not make the working class pay for the crimes of the ruling class, there will be very bad consequences.

    Posted by Emile Schepers, 03/15/2012 12:26am (4 years ago)

  • 'There is no defect in the Obama campaign which cannot be corrected with sufficient mobilization of working people and their natural allies in the democratic, peace, equality and justice movements.'

    1. another way of saying that there's no problem that can't be resolved by socialism. because that's what it takes to make any one reform STICK...let alone a package of reforms that STICK.

    2. now for mic check/open mike...

    it will [it will]
    not happen[not happen]
    without [without]
    a fighting [a fighting]
    communist [communist]
    party [party]

    Posted by gary hicks, 02/20/2012 2:33am (4 years ago)

  • Obama froze Federal spending and created the Deficit Commission which is threatening Social Security and Medicare in the name of solving the phony deficit crisis.

    Posted by Sean Mulligan, 02/18/2012 3:44am (4 years ago)

  • Obama has shown zero resistance to the austerity agenda of the Republicans. He is a supply sider. Arguing that the 2012 Presidential election gives U.S. citizens a vote to turn back austerity is misleading and wrong, unless, of course, we all vote for a third party candidate.

    Posted by John Iacovelli, 02/16/2012 1:21pm (4 years ago)

  • The solution for Greeks and Americans seems to be more worker power, right?
    --jim lane in Dallas

    Posted by jim lane, 02/16/2012 1:15pm (4 years ago)

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